The versatile Dave Grohl delivers a complex mix that starts as an ode and ends as classic.
This year’s version of rock’s renaissance man is apparently smitten with a piece of audio equipment and has gone to great lengths to share his admiration. Fortunate we are the benefactors of his amorous affair. The object in question is an analog mixing board called Neve that was at the center of some of rock’s landmark recordings and the artist is the multifaceted Dave Grohl. The one of a kind board has Grohl so enamored he has written songs about it, directed a documentary about the studio it was in and now used it to mix a challenging piece of rock and roll history itself.
The soundtrack to the “Sound City: Real To Reel” rockumentary is an epic recording the way a Chateau Mouton-Rothschild is an extraordinary wine. Pure connoisseurs will note the record’s intimate pairings of artists like Joshua Homme and Trent Reznor for an engulfing “Mantra.” The rich vocal stylings of Paul McCartney, in the Kurt Cobain role with the reunited Nirvana, are a purist fantasy and the urgency of Stevie Nicks crawls out of the speakers the way an effervescent bouquet is released when cracking the world’s finest wines. You almost want to rest and let this album breath.
And like the fine French varietals, this music is not for everyone. This is no Adele record with its universally appealing emotional connections. Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with Adele the same way there is nothing wrong with a medium priced Cabernet from California. Rather this Grohl record exhibits the richness of a perfectly fermented world-class recording. Rich in detail and enhanced by rock subtleties, this lasting piece will sweep you away in euphoria.
For years, Grohl has been leading up to this moment. In the early eighties, he helped invent an entire genre of music as a drummer with Nirvana. Then he switched instruments and lead one of the finest garage bands of all time as the Foo Fighters and now by adding filmmaker to his extensive resume he certainly earns the moniker Renaissance man. In the filming of this movie, which technically began over 20 years ago when Grohl, Cobain and Krist Novoselic set the world on fire with Nirvana’s second release “Nevermind,” Grohl explores the storied history of essentially a glorified basement. A studio, often described as “a dump,” was the location of one legendary recording after another. A homage to Seventies culture, the studio was replete with brown shag carpeting, on the walls. But to Grohl and dozens of other artists it was place of magic where the cavernous walls created a sound that shaped the musical planet.
However like many analog studios times got tough and Sound City went silent. Grohl looking to build a studio in his garage for Foo Fighter’s “Wasting Light,” purchased the studio’s mixer and that put Grohl in the documentary business- the accidental filmmaker. In his travels to record the memories of rock’s greats like Neil Young, Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac all whom recorded remarkable albums in Sound City, Grohl gained an even deeper resonance for the power of analog recordings and was able to incorporate all those teachings into this potent mix of an album that he released as the sound track.
This is not a record that will shoot up the best seller’s lists. It’s just too challenging and lacks an accessible sing along hit. Though it belongs in every fine music collector’s catalogue as a testament of the power of rock and roll and like the world’s finest wines shared on special occasions or even better just alone with some quality headphones.